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Obama pledges $70 million for robotics R&D

The National Robotics Initiative will foster "co-robots" to work with people in locales ranging from hospitals to battlefields.

Video screenshot by Tim Hornyak/CNET

Underscoring the need to stay competitive through high-tech manufacturing, President Barack Obama today announced $70 million in funding for next-generation robots that can work alongside humans everywhere from factories and hospitals to the battlefield.

"One of my jobs as commander in chief is to keep an eye on robots," Obama told a crowd at Carnegie Mellon University's National Robotics Engineering Center. "I am pleased to report that the robots you manufacture here seem peaceful."

His remarks were part of a $500 million Advanced Manufacturing Partnership effort to unite government, industry, and academia, and foster breakthrough tech.

"We are American and we just don't keep up with changing times--we set the pace for changing times," Obama said.

The National Robotics Initiative will apparently group NASA, the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and the Department of Agriculture, among other players.

According to the NSF, the goal of the initiative is to foster "co-robots" that work closely with people:

It will address the entire life cycle from fundamental research and development to industry manufacturing and deployment.

Methods for the establishment and infusion of robotics in educational curricula and research to gain a better understanding of the long term social, behavioral and economic implications of co-robots across all areas of human activity are important parts of this initiative.

Although I can't imagine $70 million making much of a difference, it will be interesting to see whether the initiative brings about practical robots in everyday situations, and not just more military bots.